Fact Checking: Do Juice Cleanses Really Work?

Today’s post comes from ((305)) junkie and dietitian Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN. Learn more about Chelsey’s anti-diet nutrition practice and healthy food blog here. All advice written below is general nutrition information, not meant to substitute for an individual consultation with a dietitian. Contact Chelsey for more information here.

Here’s the situation: Summer is coming… it’s your BFF’s bachelorette party… the week before your wedding -- insert any time-crunched situation where you may be looking to drop a few last minute lbs here -- so you think a juice cleanse is a good idea.

Let me save you the headache, energy crash, breakout, brain fog and 24/7 hangry… a juice cleanse is NEVER a good idea!

During a typical juice cleanse, one limits their intake to exclusively fresh vegetable and fruit juices and water. Many cleanses claim that drinking 5-6 “magical” elixirs daily will eliminate toxins from your body, restore your alkaline balance, help you shed a few pounds, clear your skin and boost your energy level.

The reality, however, is often quite the opposite. What you are consuming are several exorbitantly expensive multivitamins. The average juice cleanse lasts three days, but may last up to a few weeks.

During a juice cleanse...

your nutrient intake is off balance; you only consuming the naturally-occurring sugar found in fruits and vegetables without the fiber that helps offset a blood sugar spike, without much protein that helps build lean muscle and without any fat that satisfies and satiates you.

Physiologically, your body enters a semi-starvation mode if this is your only sustenance for several days and you’re hangry 24/7. Your blood sugar spikes and then crashes and perhaps, so will your mood.

You don't need a juice cleanse to detox your body.

You don't need a juice cleanse to detox your body.

If this weren’t enough, here are 4 reasons why a juice cleanse is never a good idea:

1.     Your body doesn’t need a special cleanse to eliminate toxins.

You have a liver, two kidneys and a digestive system that help your body detoxify on a daily basis! Sure, environmental toxins exist or toxins from your beauty products, but toxins don’t accumulate in your body if you are otherwise healthy because your body doesn’t want them! Regularly eating good quality food, organic when you can, and staying well hydrated are the best ways to ensure you’re not consuming toxins to begin with!

2.     Any weight loss you experience isn’t sustainable.

Sure you may drop a few lbs in the first few days, but what you’re losing is water weight and perhaps some lean muscle, not fat. Moreover, when you return to your usual eating patterns your weight will jump right back up, and perhaps even more than when you started!

While I believe slow and sustainable weight loss is best for your body, if you’re looking to lose weight in a time crunch I suggest you monitor your sodium intake, focus on filling up on veggies with lean protein and some healthy fats and up your water intake.

Make sure your diet gives the adequate level of energy to go about your day!

Make sure your diet gives the adequate level of energy to go about your day!

3.     Being hangry 24/7 means you’re no fun to be around… and your productivity at work will likely plummet.  

You may anecdotally hear about someone who felt like a rockstar on a juice cleanse, but that’s an anomaly, not the norm! Drastically cutting your calories to just several juices daily doesn’t provide the energy that your body needs to get through your intense ((305)) workout, a full day’s work and happy hour with your coworkers. In order to live a rich and fulfilling life you need adequate energy, from the food you eat, to be your best!

4.     You cannot change your body’s pH.

Your body doesn’t need a special cleanse to restore its pH balance or become “alkaline.” The human body is so smart and knows that it needs to maintain tight control of your blood pH [between 7.35-7.45] so physiological processes that need to occur can occur! There are certain abnormal conditions (kidney or lung disease or a bad stomach virus with diarrhea or vomiting for a prolonged period of time) where your blood pH may be slightly altered, but your body has mechanisms to restore your blood pH to the normal range ASAP!

You may think a juice cleanse is a great way to jumpstart some healthier eating habits, but I’d much rather you focus on chewing more vegetables and fruit with lean protein and healthy fats than starving your body of the essential nutrients it needs!

If you’re looking for deliciously nutritious recipes, check out my healthy food blog, CitNutritionally.com or feel free to reach out for a healthy meal plan!